I just finished reading some DIY music books and articles for musicians. As a publicist, well, part publicist, mostly music advocate and tireless promoter of indie music, I found them to be... well, pretty much the same. There are so many books out there now that are designed, written or even "guaranteed" to teach or coach musicians about the art of the "business" side of the business that I would venture to guess that these books are selling way more than CDs these days.
I have read many of the books, and I feel that each has merit, some great ideas for musicians, and are typically worth the cost of the download or purchase. I admire and applaud many of the authors. However, one thing that many of the books fail to address is how the artist can do it all (implement all of these great ideas) while still remaining, well, artists. In the coming weeks, I will ask a diverse collection of music business professionals this question and more, and I am very much looking forward to that post.
I am not here to provide concrete answers to the questions. I, too, made my living as a working artist for over a decade. Was there one thing that enabled me to survive from my art? No. It was about consistency, dedication, perseverance, constantly pushing myself in new directions and creating newsworthy stories. It was humility, and the belief that I could not rest for one moment. It was a long, long road of determination and gratitude for each and every little accomplishment. It did not happen overnight. It happened over years.
I believe that great art and music comes from artists who spend the time on their craft, their passion, and the sharing of their work with the public through live performances.
With the fall of the retail world, major labels, many indie labels, magazines, and other resources that used to support and help to exposure musicians to fans, everyone is looking for the "magic bullet" that will propel their career to another level.
There are countless philosophies out there- 1,000 fans, free downloads, artists against free downloads, social networking, etc. and they all make strong arguments. Often times there are at least one or two valid points on all sides.
As someone who has been in the music business since the cassette and vinyl were the first items placed on my desk for every new release, my opinion is that there is no one path to success. There is no one philosophy or approach that will work for each and every artist. I have clients with a million fans who can't support themselves, artists who are virtually inactive with social networking who support themselves by touring almost year round, and those who believe that they deserve much more than I can accomplish for them.
I often tell my clients that PR alone will not sell their CDs or bring them fame or fortune. Often they are shocked, as if I am telling them it is not worth hiring me. And to be honest, if an artist is relying solely on a publicist to achieve results in the market today, my opinion is that this is a very poor use of your hard-earned income.
So, why do the professionals still exist if you can do it yourself; and countless people and books tell you that you can? Well, because unless you have an army of experienced, professional, knowledgeable people on your team who have access to all of the tools and contacts (and know how to treat those contacts), plus the countless amounts of time, persistence and dedication it takes to get you to stand out amongst the thousands of others, it is not possible.
And, to be honest, sometimes it is not possible with the help of the biggest or the best. Putting out a CD is not enough. You must have a story, a team, a plan, the dedication to touring and the commitment to supporting your team's efforts. A story that is compelling, not simply because you believe it is. I liken this to a new mother who looks at her newborn and thinks how amazing, how beautiful he/she is. I am sure that every new mother in the maternity ward is thinking the same thing!
Tens of thousands of CDs a pressed every day and I guarantee you that each and every one of those artists think that their music, their story, is unique, captivating... worthy. I understand, it is your "baby."
But the fact remains that even those artists signed to major recording contracts, who have had international exposure (a la "American Idol," for example) and every possible advantage on their side, still fail in their attempt for a comfortable life as an "artist."
So why did I go back to the business side of things? Because I have a passion for music and the arts that exceeds my own ego. Music and the arts have shaped my life, and giving back to others amidst a crumbling industry was a very easy career choice. I am still an artist, and I know that this part of me often creates relationships and connections with my clients that many cannot comprehend.
We are not a patient society. Sometimes results happen quickly. We expect that because we are a society of wanting things "NOW." And actually, I think that's generous. We are a society of wanting things "YESTERDAY." But more often than not, it is a series of small accomplishments made over a long period of time that lead to success. Because of our culture, this feels like an eternity....
Watch for my interview with a vast number of music industry professionals, from bloggers to DJs and editors from publications as small as webzines to the largest in the biz.
Art is the one thing that speaks to everyone. Art transcends time and ties us all together as the human race. (David Dory)